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Primitive Rebels or Revolutionary Modernizers?

The 26 million Kurds are one of the largest groups of people without a state. Half live in the violently repressive and deeply corrupt military state of Turkey which has persistently failed to acknowledge their right to self-determination. Since 1993 the Turkish state has committed itself to a military solution, evicting over two million people in forced land clearances and outlawing critical press coverage, human-rights groups and democratically elected opposition. Torture is widespread and systematic in Turkey and the regime is shamefully buttressed by both the US and Britain – from arms sales to funding the Ilisu Dam.

This new book by Australian professor Paul White charts the development of the Kurdish nationalist movement from initial uprisings against the Ottoman Empire in the late 1800s, through the emergence of the widely supported Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the mid-1980s, to the PKK’s recent move away from armed struggle towards securing international recognition for the Kurdish cause. White is not uncritical of the PKK, nor is he repeating the Turkish state’s line. Instead he lays out the historical and economic context of the conflict in all its awkward complexity. The need to negotiate is more urgent than ever – though Turkey continues to refuse to do so. This book comes as a timely resource of fascinating detail and academic rigour in a minefield of frequently biased sources.

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